Interdecadal variations of ENSO around 1999/2000
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This paper discusses the interdecadal changes of the climate in the tropical Pacific with a focus on the corresponding changes in the characteristics of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Compared with 1979–1999, the whole tropical Pacific climate system, including both the ocean and atmosphere, shifted to a lower variability regime after 1999/2000. Meanwhile, the frequency of ENSO became less regular and was closer to a white noise process. The lead time of the equatorial Pacific's subsurface ocean heat content in preceding ENSO decreased remarkably, in addition to a reduction in the maximum correlation between them. The weakening of the correlation and the shortening of the lead time pose more challenges for ENSO prediction, and is the likely reason behind the decrease in skill with respect to ENSO prediction after 2000. Coincident with the changes in tropical Pacific climate variability, the mean states of the atmospheric and oceanic components also experienced physically coherent changes. The warm anomaly of SST in the western Pacific and cold anomaly in the eastern Pacific resulted in an increased zonal SST gradient, linked to an enhancement in surface wind stress and strengthening of the Walker circulation, as well as an increase in the slope of the thermocline. These changes were consistent with an increase (a decrease) in precipitation and an enhancement (a suppression) of the deep convection in the western (eastern) equatorial Pacific. Possible connections between the mean state and ENSO variability and frequency changes in the tropical Pacific are also discussed.
Key wordsENSO interdecadal variation amplitude suppression frequency change mean state
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We appreciate the constructive comments and suggestions from the two reviewers. The scientific results and conclusions, as well as any view or opinions expressed herein, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NWS, NOAA, or the Department of Commerce.
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